The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has signed off on an environmental assessment submitted last November by Consol Energy Inc. that detailed the company’s plans to develop 8,800 acres at the Pittsburgh International Airport, moving the project one step closer to reality.

After an FAA review, the agency issued a “finding of no significant impact/record of decision,” approving the assessment, which is thousands of pages long. The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Corps of Engineers have also reviewed and approved the environmental assessment (EA).

“Approval of the EA by a broad range of federal agencies speaks to the care we have taken to design a first-class project that we intend to make a flagship effort for the region,” Consol President Nick Deluliis said.

Although the company still needs to obtain permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers and gain the approval of nearby Findlay Township for its conditional-use applications, the FAA’s approval is considered a major step forward.

The project expected to generate $500 million for Allegheny County over the next 20 years and 18% in production royalties. Last year, the Allegheny County Council approved the project, which calls for constructing six well pads targeting the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, Feb. 21, 2013).

Consol has worked closely with federal agencies, the Allegheny County Airport Authority and others to move the project forward. Work at the airport is expected to get underway this summer, with drilling on the first of 45 wells slated to start in July.

In December, Consol said it would use electric engines for the first time to power both its vertical and horizontal rigs at the airport in order to comply with federal environmental regulations (see Shale Daily, Dec. 18, 2013). 

Both the FAA’s decision and the company’s environmental assessment will be available to the public beginning in April, with copies at the airport and several nearby townships.